Review: Salmonella

A witty comedy about a lifelong friendship.

Salmonella is a student-written comedy and the winner of the Harry Porter Footlights Prize.  The play tells the story of a friendship that spans decades.  Sam and Ella reminisce in their retirement home about their hilarious – and often very relatable – escapades from when they were flatmates at the start of their adult lives.  In doing so, the play touches upon many poignant themes of friendship, youth and old age.

Romantic and familial plotlines often dominate theatre, so it is refreshing to see a friendship being given so much importance in a play.  The casting of Theo Tompkins and Jemima Langdon as old Sam and Ella, and then Josh Bailey and Meg Reynolds as their younger selves was truly ingenious, as the costumes and make-up made Tompkins and Langdon really look plausible as the older versions of the characters.  Both pairs had a real spark between them, which really brought to life the witty banter of Maria Pointer’s script.

The scenarios that Sam and Ella find themselves entangled in achieve the perfect balance of being ridiculous enough to be farcical, but often realistic enough to be relatable.  Ella’s life-long disgust at raisin cookies and the pair’s inability to hit the high note in Take On Me, for instance, may resonate with many members of the audience.

The audience is very much swept along in the ride, much like how Sam and Ella themselves often struggle with factors outside of their control as they navigate the uncertainties of both youth and old age.  Although the bittersweet ending is certainly thought provoking, it perhaps would have been more emotionally satisfying for the audience to also see some further resolution to the young Sam and Ella’s concerns about their careers and finding romantic partners, since the time period between the start and end of their adult lives is largely left unexplored.  The later events of Sam’s life are particularly left ambiguous, and it might have been interesting to see the results of some of his decisions at the start of the play.


Sam and Ella reminisce about their youth together. Credit: Maria Pointer 

Perhaps the most inventive aspect of the play is the staging.  Old Sam and Ella spend much of the play sitting at the front of the stage while their past lives are acted out behind them.  Some of the most comedic moments come from watching old Sam and Ella respond to their former selves, such as laughing at their own jokes.  The ensemble is present on stage throughout almost all of the play, and this adds another layer of interest to scenes which otherwise would have just consisted of the lead characters talking and may have become repetitive.  The ensemble’s almost metatheatrical reactions to the lead characters are also very funny.


Overall, Salmonella is an entertaining play to lose yourself in for an evening, and definitely worth seeing.

 4/5 Stars.